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Aug 27, 2005, 11:06 PM
Ruben Apodaca, an animator for over 30 years and an animation instructor at three Southern California colleges, died July 17 at 73.
Animator, instructor Ruben Apodaca dies at 73
Apodaca died at his daughter's home in Scottsdale, Arizona following a brief illness.
Between 1956 and his retirement in 1987, he worked for Disney, UPA, Warner Bros., Format, Hanna-Barbera and Filmation.
He was later an instructor at the Art Institute of Los Angeles, Woodbury University and Mt. Sierra College. He was a trustee of Barstow Community College for 12 years in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
After graduating from Barstow High School in 1950, Apodaca enlisted in the United States Air Force. During the Korean War, he served for four years in Korea and Japan.
An accomplished illustrator, Apodaca began his animation career at Walt Disney in 1956 working on such classic feature films as Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins. His daughter, Ramona Thorne, said that her father figured out film animation on his own. He worked with Disney for seven years, then worked for H-B for 21 years, she added.
After his Disney stint, Apodaca went to UPA Productions to work on Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing. Then he headed to Format Films (staffed by former UPA employees) for Alvin and the Chipmunks.
He did Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons at Warner Bros. before ending his career as an animator at H-B on such series as The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and The Smurfs. He had returned to Disney to work on The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh.
Before embarking on his new career as a teacher, he worked in computer graphics at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
Apodaca invested some of his own money in Vignette Films. The studio was started in the 1960s by Leo Sullivan, an animator since the 1950s, to produce films on African-American history. Apodaca was the only non-African-American invited to join the small company's board of directors.
"Ruben made that rare transition from animator to teacher," Phil Roman, who worked with Apodaca, said in a message read at the instructor's 70th birthday celebration in 2001. "Itís unbelievably hard to do. I know I can't do it. He continues to inspire kids and has a great attitude."
A member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Apodaca served on its national awards committee and was an animation peer group representative on its executive committee.
Former Barstow Community College president J.W. "Edwin" Spear said of Apodaca: "He was instrumental in developing the college and expanding its programs. He wanted to ensure that our students received a broad liberal education to prepare for life."
Apodaca especially wanted to ensure that Latino students would not be denied a higher education, retired educator Bill Sims, a fellow college trustee during the early 1980s, told the San Bernardino County Sun. "He especially tried to recognize their needs, making sure they had equal opportunities."
"I had utmost respect for Ruben as a fellow board member and a friend," said attorney Brian Morgan. "He was a fabulous artist, and delighted my three children with spontaneous cartoons."
Barbara Thompson, a friend of Apodaca for 35 years, called him very private and complex.
"Ruben had a wonderful sense of humor, and as an artist he showed all of us the magic of our world around us. Ruben helped countless young people develop careers in the art world. Many of them were abused and underprivileged children," she said.
Apodaca received several honorary awards for his art.
Ruben Apodaca was predeceased by his wife, Doris, who was also a Disney animator. Besides his daughter, he is survived by son John Apodaca of Abilene, Texas; sister Vera Andrade of Barstow; and three grandchildren.
A public memorial service was held July 26 at Cora Harper Community Center. David Orlowski, pastor of Abiding Grace Church in Scottsdale, presided.
Interment took place in Scottsdale.
(This post was edited by eminovitz on Aug 27, 2005, 11:15 PM)